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Raymond Arroyo on Mother Angelica: What is it like to know a saint?


“She was always, always asking ‘What is God asking me to do now?’ and she would turn on a dime and do it. And nine times out of ten she was right.”


Raymond Arroyo spent years working with and interviewing Mother Angelica. She was like a second mother to him and he loved her dearly. And the feeling was mutual, which was obvious to anyone who ever saw them together, even on television. With his most recent book about her, Mother Angelica: Her Grand Silence, I finally asked him: So you knew and loved and worked for and with a saint. What’s that like? How do we do the same?

She was “single minded and driven. It is God or nothing,” he said of her approach to life, focused on Him.

He noted the same would and has been said about Mother Teresa, someone he also interviewed and spent several days with. About the two saintly women he continued: “The mission they are given is totally consuming,” even admitting that “it’s very difficult to be near someone like that.” Their concerns are not the world’s concerns. “They were on a mission.”

With Mother Angelica, he said, “you either get on the train, or the train is going to move past you.” It’s part of the “beauty” of God, that He works with the nature of the individual. “Their sanctity is found in their willingness to give of themselves to someone… and to live out those virtues of faith, hope.”

Courtesy of the OLAM Nuns

He was quick to add that pronouncing her a saint “is not my job,” so he’s not. But he “saw amazing things,” many of which he captures in this most recent book especially, but this can be said of his series of them – the first biography and a treasure of prayers. “I have no doubt that Mother had heroic virtue.”

The first of the stories that comes to mind when I ask him about some of the kinds of things she would do is about a girl who came to see Mother Angelica at EWTN, who was thinking she has a religious vocation.

“Well, when are you going to give in, when are you going to answer the Lord’s call?” was Mother’s response. The young woman insisted that it wasn’t the right time.

Mother wasn’t satisfied with the answer and pressed her. So the aspirant admitted that she had financial debt — quoting numbers — and a mother who needed her, and so she really felt like she couldn’t say “yes” to what she knew was God’s will for her anytime in the near future.

Courtesy of the OLAM Nuns

You know what happened the next day. Mother Angelica handed her an envelope with cash, all the money she needed. “Now what’s your excuse? You’ve got to take the step. I know you feel scared, but you need to take the step.” And so she did. And is still a nun today. “That’s Angelica at her best,” Arroyo explained. “She was inspired. She acted on those inspirations. She was always available to God.”

“She was always, always asking ‘What is God asking me to do now?’ and she would turn on a dime and do it. And nine times out of ten she was right.”

I often wonder what Mother Angelica would be doing or saying now, about politics, about the Church, about confusion that often seems to reign in our culture. The most important of it would be exactly what Arroyo recounts. What is it that God wants? And that’s a question we ask individually; He has the full plan. Our jobs are to follow our own unique missions.

I often think it is no mistake that Pope Francis canonized Pope John XXIII, who famously would go to sleep reminding God – and clearly himself – that the Church belongs to God, not the pope, not any human being. It is not for each one of us to save the sanity of the world or even our own family/community/whatever we have some direct influence on.

HANDOUT PHOTO:   Mother Angelica and the other is an image of Mother Angelica and Pope John Paul II. (Courtesy of EWTN)
Courtesy of EWTN
Mother Angelica and the other is an image of Mother Angelica and Pope John Paul II. (Courtesy of EWTN)

That’s the kind of examined life of humility that has become so foreign to our culture. We do before we think, never mind pray, because we don’t think we have time or quiet to think or pray. And we don’t know that we can trust God because even in Christian schools and contexts we are raised to be successful in worldly ways.

Pray to know and trust and do God’s will.

Raymond reminds me of one other thing Mother would always say: “Take the first step. If He wants it He’ll give you the grace.” Good advice for a day like today, day after day.



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